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by Michael Pearce
Poisoned Pen Press, May 2008
206 pages
ISBN: 1590584449

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

The sixteenth Mamur Zapt adventure, THE MARK OF THE PASHA, is a slender story set against a stunning background. Egypt at the end of the first World Ward i being remade both from within and without. Its place in the new world order is in doubt. The political future of the current Khedive is also in doubt. Western influences are both embraced and rejected. And a quieter social revolution is starting as women look to the suffragettes abroad and reconsider their options at home. It's a vibrant, turbulent time, well described by Pearce.

The Khedive, to remind his people of his power and majesty, has decided to hold a public procession. His Mamur Zapt (the title of the chief of the secret police, a man named Gareth Owen) learns of a plot to assassinate him along the route. The plan is foiled, but it turns out to be only one part of a wide-ranging conspiracy, one that is already littering bodies in its wake as it seeks to destroy the visiting European delegation.

Why a Brit is working in Egypt is left for previous books to describe, along with how he gained such a respected post. This omission doesn't hurt the enjoyment of first-time readers, who are presumably not starting the story this late, but a little reminder would have helped.

As a conspiracy novel, THE MARK OF THE PASHA is sorely lacking. There are few wheels-within-wheels, although there are red herrings along the way, and the mystery is treated throughout as mostly a basic police case – although it isn't detective work that solves everything but rather a neatly timed confession. And I have to make a confession as well – it is my opinion that a hardback novel less than 325 pages is too short to be worth the price, and this book stops over 100 pages short of that.

On the other hand, the characters and general descriptions are wonderful. If you like atmosphere over puzzle, you may well enjoy this book… in paperback.

Reviewed by Linnea Dodson, June 2008

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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